The First Lord’s Song

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Something for the weekend.  The First Lord’s Song from Gilbert& Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore, a satirical look at how political hacks filled important positions they were completely unsuited for.  With around 40% of Congresscritters members of the legal profession, and I believe some eight cabinet level officers, the song remains topical.

 When I was a lad I served a term
As office boy to an attorney’s firm
I cleaned the windows and I swept the floor
And I polished up the handle of the big front door
He polished up the handle of the big front door
I polished up that handle so carefully
That now I am the Ruler of the Queen’s Navy
He polished up that handle so carefully
That now he is the Ruler of the Queen’s Navy

As office boy I made such a mark
That they gave me the post of a junior clerk
I served the writs with a smile so bland
And I copied all the letters in a big round hand
He copied all the letters in a big round hand
I copied all the letters in a hand so free
That now I am the Ruler of the Queen’s Navy
He copied all the letters in a hand so free
That now he is the Ruler of the Queen’s Navy

In serving writs I made such a name
That an articled clerk I soon became
I wore clean collars and a brand-new suit
For the Pass Examination at the Institute
For the Pass Examination at the Institute
And that Pass Examination did so well for me
That now I am the Ruler of the Queen’s Navy
That Pass Examination did so well for he
That now he is the Ruler of the Queen’s Navy

Of legal knowledge I acquired such a grip
That they took me into the partnership
And that junior partnership I ween
Was the only ship that I ever had seen
Was the only ship that he ever had seen
But that kind of ship so suited me
That now I am the Ruler of the Queen’s Navy
But that kind of ship so suited he
That now he is the Ruler of the Queen’s Navy

I grew so rich that I was sent
By a pocket borough into Parliament
I always voted at my party’s call
And I never thought of thinking for myself at all
No, he never thought of thinking for himself at all
I thought so little, they rewarded me
By making me the Ruler of the Queen’s Navy
He thought so little, they rewarded he
By making him the Ruler of the Queen’s Navy

Now, landsmen all, whoever you may be
If you want to rise to the top of the tree
If your soul isn’t fettered to an office stool
Be careful to be guided by this golden rule
Be careful to be guided by this golden rule
Stick close to your desks and never go to sea
And you all may be Rulers of the Queen’s Navy
Stick close to your desks and never go to sea
And you all may be Rulers of the Queen’s Navy

 Perhaps the world would be better if attorneys would simply stick to their own profession, although often that is not very edifying either:

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6 Responses to The First Lord’s Song

  • Got my husband hooked on G&S with a choice selection of their more…ah… currently accurate songs. My darling Evil Overlord especially enjoyed “I’ve got a little list.” (Link keeps the spirit but changes the words a bit….)

    Several family car trips were made MUCH better by my mom having a compilation tape for these folks, and being deaf enough to really blast it.
    (Also: Ride of the Valkyries is outstanding cruising music; hopefully we upgrade the minivan before our next really long drive, so I can use my “Massive Classics” CD.)

  • Really love G & S and the Savoy Operas – all had a comment to make on the society of that day, but as you say, still very relevant today.
    “Stick close to your desk and never go to sea……..” speaks volumes of the burgeoning bureaucracies in governments today – often instigated by socialist style govts – people who have been seat -polishers all their lives but making crucial life decisions that impact negatively on society at large.

    In my days at Sacred Heart in the 50’s there was an annual production of one of the Gilbert & Sullivan operas. When I was a boy soprano I acted in “Pirates of Penzance” and “The Mikado”.
    I missed “HMS Pinafore” and “The Gondoliers” when my voice broke and took me a year or more for my tenor voice to develop.
    Great selection Don.

  • Thank you Don. When you consider that these were light operas for the masses in the 19th century, the wit and the sharp observations on society contained within them are amazing. Apparently in those days entertainers did not assume that they had to appeal to the lowest common denominator to draw an audience.

  • “Stick close to your desks and never go to sea” is one thing for some one who is appointed First Sea Lord or Secretary of the Navy. But when I see headlines of ship’s captains getting fired in the NAVY TIMES I wonder how many Naval Line Officers follow that advice.

    I know we had a certain problem with Army Officers who hated troop duty and felt the way to get ahead was to avoid itl They usually got there come uppance before they got a star but not always.

    Hank’s Eclectic Meanderings

  • Magnificent! There is much truth in jest.

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